Name of Object:
Lion from a fountain
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Date of Object:
Hegira 5th–6th century / AD 11th–12th century
Museum Inventory Number:
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Bronze casting, hollow, engraved.
Height 11.5 cm, length 14.5 cm
Period / Dynasty:
A sculpture such as this hollow lion – standing erect with its uplifted tasselled tail in the shape of a handle – is testament to the variety of Fatimid art. The open jaw of the lion once held a water pipe. The lion’s shape is based on a composition of very abstract forms. Thus its paws are flat, its ribs drawn out linearly, and the lines to describe both the extension of its ears and its bulging eyebrows are simple. The surface of its body along its back, chest and upper legs, is decorated with a spiral pattern that reinforces the sculpture’s stylised form. The engraved inscription found on both sides of the neck can be seen clearly and may date from the AH 7th / AD 13th century. It refers to bi-rasem al-amir Shams al-Din wali Misr, who was probably the governor of ‘Misr’ (Lower Egypt and Cairo).
View Short Description
This lively little lion with an open mouth and upturned tail was used as a fountain spigot during the Fatimid period in Egypt. It is made of cast bronze that has been decorated with scrolls on the back and the legs. Fountains with animal decoration were widespread in Mediterranean countries.
How date and origin were established:
Similar figures, cast in bronze, were made especially in Fatimid Egypt. Both the design and the decoration of the lion fountain demonstrate parallels to similar pieces that were created during the Fatimid period. Additionally, it features an inscription that names an apparent governor of Egypt.
How Object was obtained:
From a private art gallery in 1911.
How provenance was established:
The inscription appears to name a governor of Egypt. Furthermore the stylistic markings testify to having originated from the Egyptian Fatimid period.
Enderlein, V., Islamische Kunst, Dresden, 1990, pp.121–4.
Citation of this web page:
Annette Hagedorn "Lion from a fountain" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;9;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn